Historical Photos of Shipyards that built the Revolutionary Steamships, 1860-1900

British shipbuilding experienced great advancements and rapid growth during the Victoria era. With the advent of steam propulsion and iron materials, wooden shipbuilding techniques, which had lasted for millennia, were radically changed. To maintain her vast colonial empire, Queen needed an efficient navy. This led to significant royal patronage of shipbuilding. The British built 90% of the world’s ships by 1890. Shipbuilding was even sponsored by the government so that the navy could protect the navigation routes.

Initially, iron was used only for strengthening wood-framed ships, but it eventually replaced more components, so some ships used a wooden hull around an iron frame, and others used iron plates for their hulls. The iron ships could be much larger and have more space for cargo. Early steamships had stern or side paddles that were suitable for steam engines. The paddle steamers were not suitable for the open sea because, in heavy seas, waves lifted one wheel right out of the water while the other kept going under, causing the engines to strain. Ocean-going steamers became feasible with the change from paddle-wheels to screw-propellers as the mechanism of propulsion. Because the propeller’s efficiency was the same regardless of the depth they operated, these steamships quickly became more popular. The smaller size and mass and being completely submerged made it less vulnerable to damage.

Steamships are commonly designated as “PS” for paddle steamers or “SS” for screw steamers (using propellers or screws). Due to the decreasing frequency of paddle steamers, many think “SS” stands for “steamship.” Steamships became less dependent on wind patterns, enabling new trade routes. Historically, steamships have been credited with driving the first wave of global trade (1870-1913) and contributing to a surge in international trade unprecedented in human history.

Below are some historical photos of famous shipyards across the world that built revolutionary steamships

#2 A ship under construction in Marseilles, France, 1860.

#4 The William H. Webb Shipyard in New York. The ship under construction is the ‘Re Don Luigi di Portogallo,’ an ironclad vessel built for the Italian government.

#5 The shipyard of James Ash & Company, London, 1863.

#7 A new open deck steamship moored off the shipyard which produced it in East Anglia, 1866.

#8 The construction of the William I at the Thames Iron Works, 1867.

#9 The launch of the Le Chantier du Marceau warship in Seyne-sur-Mer, Cote d’Azur, France, 1884.

#10 A ship’s hull is repaired in dry dock in France, 1890.

#11 Workers at the Newport News Shipbuilding Company in Virginia, 1899.

#13 The construction of a wooden ship in Portland, Oregon, 1900.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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